The open questions from the “Moscow connection” in Hanover

DThe Chancellery of the Lower Saxony Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) provided information on questions from the opposition FDP about the “Moscow connection” in Hanover on Friday. Chancellor Jörg Mielke presented a 17-page report to the state parliament’s economic committee, which dealt mainly with Prime Minister Weil’s contacts with Gerhard Schröder and his confidant Heino Wiese. Wiese has a consulting firm focusing on Russia and became Russian Honorary Consul in Hanover in 2016. Mielke said in the state parliament that with Honorary Consul Wiese “there had always been some reluctance on the part of the State Chancellery” because he “also ran an agency that focused on economic exploitation of precisely these contacts “with politicians.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

Prior to Wiese’s appointment as Honorary Consul, Prime Minister Weil spoke in 2014 in a discussion group at a distinguished hotel in Hanover and in 2015 at an evening salon in Hanover, both events were organized by Wiese’s consulting firm. When asked whether guests should pay money to the company for their participation, the state government again gave no answer on Friday. Wiese donated 13,500 euros to the SPD alone in 2015 and a further 14,000 euros through his company in 2016, of which 10,000 euros directly to the state association Niedersachsen, of which Weil is chairman. FDP parliamentary group leader Stefan Birkner said that if money was requested to attend the events, it would be “a big problem for Weil”. Birkner recalled the so-called “Meet Rüttgers affair”, which caused a stir in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2010. At the request of FAZ, the consulting firm “Wiese Consult” did not provide specific information about the two dates and wrote in general that such formats “mostly was funded by participant contributions, sponsors, collaboration “or” own marketing funds “.

Only once were members of the opposition hit

The committee meeting on Friday was also about Weil’s travels to Russia. After taking office in 2013, the Prime Minister made four official trips to Russia, more than any other country. When asked by the FDP what contacts the SPD politician had with human rights groups there, his head of state chancellor replied on Friday that there had been a meeting with critical representatives of civil society during the first trip to Russia in 2013. The meeting took place at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s office in Moscow. There were no such meetings during the travels in 2015, 2016 and 2018, although the pressure on opposition figures in Russia increased after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The FDP’s parliamentary group leader Birkner has now called on the SPD in Lower Saxony to also create transparency for donations from people close to Russia below the 10,000 euro threshold. Since the state government does not disclose this, the party must also disclose what the talks with Gerhard Schröder were about, which Weil did not conduct in his capacity as head of government, but as SPD politician.

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